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tv   Washington Ideas Forum Day 1 Afternoon Session  CSPAN  January 2, 2015 8:31pm-8:50pm EST

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of drives justification for continued investment in something like the brain initiative. do we have enough? is this looking promising? i think we've got, it said 10 years and at that point, you know, we don't know and how is that going to play out? are we going to need to continue to see? >> i think the numbers are constantly changing but there was an n.i.h. panel that recommended the project fund up to $500 million annually. up to 2025. so i think they proposed a plan for that. that's currently unfunded. so to be clear, the brain initiative while having a lot of momentum at this point is not incorporated into the future funding yet. so i think those are, you please, to make the case, you look at this societal cost of just alzheimer's alone, let
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alone all the other things that are really encompassed in brain disease. you know, whenever i say obesity or eating disorders, people are like, how is that related to the brain? well how isn't it related to the brain? there are so many different things that impact people's daily lives, you know, i think the -- you know, one in four people in this country will have some diagnosable mental disorder this year. which means that every single person is affected by somebody. you know somebody, either somebody in your family or one of your co-workers that affects your lives and if you think about that not only to the person but to the people around them, the burden is huge. and we can do something about it. the technology is here to actually really make a difference.
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we just have to pay attention to it and put some effort toward it. >> because after all, you know, we're talking about other diseases but if you think about it diabetes, heart disease, these are all problems that science and medicine has i won't say resolved but technically we have a handle on it. the only organ we do not have a handle on is the brain. the only diseases we really don't know what to do with are from psychiatric treatment and drive. we cannot transplant the brain. and so that's really, you know, i don't want to use a cliche' but as a frontier is really where we need to focus. we go back to the beginning of our talk, the brain initiative and what the allen institute is doing, their long-term plan is really to try to bring the brain up to speed to the rest of medicine because we are at a loss. we know from looking at people with dementia we still don't have a grasp on it. that's why these 10 years are going to be essential i think. >> good luck. thank you very much, dr.
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annese. >> thank you. >> dr. jones. >> our coverage of the 2014 washington ideas forum continues with a aaward winning authors joseph o'neill and interviewed by the atlantic editor. this is almost 20 minutes. >> well, thank you, steve. thank you all for coming. it's a huge honor to be up here with joe and gary because they are truly two of the best novelist working in english, maybe any other language today. i'm a huge fan of their work. you don't even know this gary but i was at the southern festival of the book a couple weeks ago in nashville and i saw you walking through the hotel lobby and i contemplated going up to you and talking to you but i was a little star struck and shy and i realized and thought maybe you would run away. >> oh, no. i'd run toward you. >> but now i realize you are a captive audience here. if you try to scurry away i
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have this whole audience who could tackle you. i want to get down to serious business. we got a lot of ground to cover in a very short period of time. i want to begin on a couple lighter notes. gary i was reading in "the new yorker" a piece you did in the last couple weeks about your book tour for the paperback of "little failure" which i highly recommend to fortune. you noted in that that you packed i believe 46 adavan tablets for your tour to combat stage fright which is anxiety i can relate to. there you go. how many of those tablets on your tour did you end up taking? how many have you taken before today? >> today just half a milligram of adavan. i feel comfortable in washington. i think people are nice and i think most of you yourself, are on drugs as well. [laughter] >> and one other note of nonseriousness before we get down to serious business and i'm cognizant of the fact it's been a long day.
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you sat through a lot of heavy duty stuff. i want to be sure i keep you fully awake. gary, you have written many times both in your memoir and in some of your novels about the excessive hairiness or furriness as you put it of your protaganists. this is kind of a self- preoccupation of yours. i will say for the record and maybe afterwards we can have a short competition. am hairier than you. >> my goodness. >> kind of like a full body did shall-when i shave it's arbitrary where i stop. >> oh, my. >> but if we did that probably the national zoo would turn up. >> i can't believe you're having a hair off and keeping me out of it. >> all right. at the end of this we will all -- we will have hair off and the national zoo will come collect all three escaped chimps and take us back to where we belong.
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anyway, getting down to more serious business -- >> i would say with regard to your respective writing styles and sensibilities in some ways you are extremely dissimilar novelists. if you look at analogs from the american literary greats i would put joe more in the tradition of someone you've been compared to, f. scott fitzgerald which is heavy company to be in. the narrator was of both your novels kind of a nick carrowayesque voice. gary, i put you more in the tradition of sal melo and early nixon & peabody roth not just because of your preoccupation with the jewish themes but because of the carnivalesque exuberance and wit of your writerly voice. >> thank you. i'll take it. >> in the russian tradition i would say gary probably more in the tradition of a satirist. joe, with your restraint kind of writerly precision more
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cekov or nabokov. >> one place where you really overlap despite the differences in both your fiction and nonfiction is writing about immigrants and expatriates and the immigrant identity process. your debut novel gary, you have the main character vladimir working in new york. you describe him as the immigrant's immigrant enduring victim of every practical joke in the late 20,000 century and the unlikely hero for our times. the characters in your book are also both an american in dubai in your latest book "the dog" and a dutchman in the u.s. in the netherland and i saw you quoted in an interview somewhere, joe, you don't have a home turf. you have no choice but to float around on these post national currents. so i realize you could each spend, you have spent your entire careers in some sense talking about this. but you each talk for very briefly about how does being an
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immigrant or displaced expatriate inform your writing? i start with you, gary. >> well, when i came to america it was 1980. and being the russian was the worst thing you could be. there were all those movies "red dawn" and red gerbil, red hamster. anything that was red. i was sent to school for a crime i did not commit. when i was sentenced there it was so bad being a russian being a commy i had to pretend to the kids i was born in east berlin not len ingrad. i was trying to convince jewish kids i was actually a german. [laughter] you know, what 10 years later i showed up at overland college, a small marxist college in ohio. and being an immigrant was the coolest thing you could imagine. i mean everyone, nobody wanted to be the heterosexual white male. so i got as russian as could
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be. i was. the bullets and all that. i tried to annex another college. it was, you know, a really productive --. >> you have not annexed any other colleges like gary has. >> no i haven't. >> you came to america from holland by turkey if i'm not mistaken? >> well, i'm a permanent migrant. my father is irish. i was born in ireland. my mother is turkish. i grew up in africa and holland mainly. i speak french with my mother. so in other words new york was a very good fit for me. and i felt at home there. >> so we're in washington. we probably have, it is an appropriate place to ask this question. what is the relationship of the novel to politics?
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you have both in different novels dabbled in satire which is sometimes in the political genre going back to jonathan swift. in your book "the dog" you actually saw you quoted outside the context of the novel in an interview and this i think speaks to your own political sensibilities but obama famously bought your first novel. i think when he was on martha's vineyard. >> did he buy it? >> maybe they gave it to him. >> this is just a couple months ago someone asked you how did you feel about that? you said i felt uncomfortable with the whole obama thing. i'm sure it sold books. he's now been in office for six years and they're still force feeding people in gaub. so it's kind of problematic to have that name obama on your book jacket. so for both of you, what bearing or relevance do novels have on politics? do you see yourself as political novelists? >> well, you go. [laughter] dd
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>> yes. i think novels are inevitably political. the political content of the novel actually depends on the reader. if you're disposed toward asking ethical questions then practically any text becomes kind of bloated with political meaning. i certainly feel that my most recent book, for example, the book set in dubai, is a kind of aggravates more sorts of physical things, how countries are structured and dubai in particular and what that says about for example american society as well. for sure yeah. >> i guess being from the former soviet whatever you do get political. i just want to capture sort of the feeling of what it's like to be in these two giant countries, america and russia. i was privileged to be born in one super power that collapsed and then move to another super power that's doing great.
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so it feels like everywhere i go k whenever i land in beijing they're like, okay. step on back. yeah. it is really a very 20th century kind of experience that i've had. part of me wishes i was just working at a burger can inc. in denmark having a time and having a decent life. >> that should is a good segue. the prospect of you both and all novelists some day working in mcdonald's in denmark. the future of the novelist. philip roth a few years ago called a novel, quote, a dying animal and elaborated and said maybe a small group of people will be reading it. maybe more people will read them than now currently read latin poetry but probably in about that range. he said because of screen time and distraction. as we were preparing i was google around and that was a great quote by roth.
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i found an interview you did gary. you said yeah. who knows? some day maybe literature will come back. it sucks to be in the butthole of it all of a sudden. what is the future of the novel? does it have one? >> look. you have to take everything i say with a grain of salt. in the industry they call me a sap. nothing looks up to me. yeah i think we're in the end of it. i think this is coming to an end. i know professors of english who tell me i haven't read a book in a while because i don't have time. i just read parts of books or reviews or texts on books but it is very hard to read an entire book. that's why people turn to, the tv serial like "the sopranos" has caught on so much because it provides a narrative we all need. we are still wired for narrative but we watch it passively now instead of trying to absorb inside a book.
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reading a book, i have to enter the consciousness of this guy and he has to do the same with me. that takes effort though it is an incredible mind melled technology. but it is almost over. >> do you agree? >> i'm still trying to get over the whole entering consciousness and mind meld. i'll just stay there. such fun. >> i agree. i think the questions of money come into it which is to say that it's just not lucrative for anybody to read or to get people to read. the technologies have overtaken that. because everything is, all human activity is so connected to profitability now. in a way that just wasn't the case in my childhood for example. it just seems to be kind of
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strange. there seems to be something invalid about reading a novel or a lengthy test. it's if you know, everything has to be -- reduced at points. >> is the novel just a contingent kind of time limited thing from early victorian era to 15 years ago and what's next? >> i think the novel is contingent with -- i think that now we're coming to the end of the enlightenment or to a new phase where information and the mobility of information depends upon its profitable. for example news information now doesn't depend on its accuracy but its sellability to the market. and so the great thing that novels have to offer is contact with reality, contact with truth. that's what good novels do. that's not a particularly valuable commodity anymore. i think that's where to track it in relationship to the enlightenment. >> it's nice when people major
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in the humanities every once in a while. that used to be a major part of this country. the liberal arts. after the g.i. bills millions flocked to the universities and there was a vibrant intellectual culture which meant a novel could sell millions of copies and still be difficult to read. that's over with now. we have to accept that reality. >> so if and when the novel dies, you have a background as a lawyer. you could go back to being a lawyer. you say in "little failure" what else could you have been but a writer? what else will you do next? >> i like air conditioning and refrigerator repair. with chimet change --. >> it's huge. i'm trying to push my kid into that. he is only a year old. i'm trying to develop his love of refrigeration. i mean i'll join his company.
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>> so while it still exists what do you see, and this relates to the political question but what is the function of the novel? w.h. famously and over quotedly said poetry makes nothing happen. and the same could be said of the novel. this gets, this is a question. is your aim when you're writing to entertain to enlighten to -- what is the function of the novel? what function can it serve that breaking bad can't serve? >> tough. because "breaking bad" is really good. [laughter] and it's incredibly novelistic. the way these things are structured it is chapters basically of a novel. 56 episodes, 56 chapters. a really good show like "the sopranos" lets you delve into the minds of the characters. it has its own elements of war as well as peace. this is really good stuff. but the novel like i said before, you know when you buy a book from one of us you're
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entering us for a while. you're living inside here for a while. and that's a whole different technology. to see that completely destroyed is sad. to see it play a minor role as it has for the last two decades is okay with me. we'll all teach our programs and half of brooklyn will come so it'll be nice. >> well, the specific technology that is the novel offers insight into subjectivity and human consciousness. we enter people's minds and tv can't do that. i also think even the smartest television and i watch, there always comes a moment where you think oh, god. that's just stupid. that's just stupid. they have to move, they had to do something stupid or the plot would get boring. in a novel there is no real -- literary novels -- there is no real pay off for being stupid or pressure for being stupid. in fact, you're penalized


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